A Ladder Reminder for Latter Days
At such times it is important for us to reflect on the prophetic dream of the Patriarch Yaakov described in the Torah portion which will be read this Shabbat. Yaakov saw a ladder with angels walking up its rungs and then coming down. The Midrash teaches that these were the patron angels of the nations which would subjugate the descendants of Yaakov in the "four exiles" of history.
The angel of Babylon ascended 70 rungs, representing the 70 years of Babylonian exile. He was followed by the angel of Persia who mounted 52, and the angel of Greece who climbed 180, representing the years of those two exiles. Then appeared the angel of Edom (Rome) whom Yaakov saw climbing higher and higher without coming down. Yaakov's fear that this indicated no end to the final exile was allayed by the Divine guarantee that He has already warned the forces involved in that last phase of exile that "even if you soar aloft like the eagle and set your nest among the stars, from there I will bring you down" (Ovadiah 1:4).